What is an innovation ecosystem and how does it exactly work in the business world? It has proven to provide great value and success. Read for further details!
There have never been better opportunities in the world for value creation. A business’ capacity in the modern day to leverage technology to assess situations and develop solutions is unparalleled in history. Never have we been at this level of data accumulation and analysis, automation, and communication. Never have we had the opportunity to witness how technologies can scale seamlessly from the smallest startup to immense multinational corporations.
But in order to make full use of how technology has and will continue to drive innovation, we need an environment that prioritizes said innovation – one that does not stifle it. And one that can lead, manage, and network in such a way that we continue to keep moving towards creating better value for customers and clients.
To understand how an environment can be shaped to improve innovation, it’s important to understand the concept of innovation ecosystems.
What is an Innovation Ecosystem?
Work on innovation ecosystems attempts to identify the factors that influence innovation in a given field (whether it’s an industry, a nation, a city, a region, or even a firm). The sum of these factors is described as an ecosystem.
In ecological science, an ecosystem can be defined as the flow of material and energy – the transit of nutrients between different organisms and their respective life cycles within an environment. Ecosystems also attempt to explain and observe the relationships between living and non-living components within an open system (from small ponds to entire biomes).
The concept of an ecosystem attempts to summarily define all factors contributing to life in a given area. And in much the same way, an innovation ecosystem is an attempt to identify the outside and inside factors that work towards fostering and harnessing ideas and helping them mature into solutions to existing or even unidentified problems.
On a larger scale, an innovation ecosystem attempts to understand and potentially optimize an industry’s capacity for new ideas with tangible usefulness. Depending on the scale, this might include funding, education, and policy changes on a national or regional level, and incremental changes that lead to results over the course of many years.
On a much smaller scale, evaluating a company’s innovation ecosystem, for example, would help a business identify whether their decision-making and management style are optimally conducive towards pulling the best out of their existing employees, while attracting the kind of talent into the business that would continue to breathe life into the industry.
Coworking spaces are a great crucible for innovation, and a showcase of how the individual components of an innovation ecosystem meld together.
The Components of an Innovation Ecosystem
To better understand how to leverage the idea of an innovation ecosystem within a smaller scale like a business or a local industry, it is important to identify the factors that are commonly discussed within various different definitions of an innovation ecosystem.
- Actors (the individuals within the system)
- Activities (from research and development to sales and marketing)
- Artifacts (products, prototypes, technologies, services, and projects)
- Institutions (established groups, rules, or policies that set the stage)
- Relations (the interactions and networking between actors, as well as groups of actors)
Beyond these critical elements exist other important layers, such as the degree to which an ecosystem is collaborative (fostering profitable relationships between separate groups of actors working together) or competitive (wherein the drive to compete fuels innovation between actors), and whether artifacts are being developed either on a complementary level (to build on existing ideas and provide auxiliary products and services) or as substitutes (attempting to replace an existing product or service with something better).
Where innovation is the development of something new or novel to a system, an innovation ecosystem attempts to identify how innovations are made and improve upon existing factors to drive more innovation.
Harnessing Innovation Ecosystems Through Coworking
Just as in nature, innovation ecosystems are not consciously built – they can only be modified or fostered. The ecosystem is already in place, if not within a smaller scale then on a larger scale, often outside of the control of any one business or individual.
Managers and employers are tasked with finetuning the factors that remain within their control to drive innovation within their own ecosystem, whether through hiring methods aimed at attracting the right actors, or through improved relations. In addition, by seeking funding to help fuel activities that may lead to innovation, by changing the way workers are motivated, and by collaborating with other companies capable of providing complementary artifacts.
Coworking spaces are a great example of an innovation ecosystem, particularly its central point: the environment (the institutions) that set the stage for the process. Avoid rigidity, especially in a day and age where innovations are occurring rapidly, and where companies are often encouraged to move with the times – which is to say, very quickly.
Another prolific example is how Apple worked with the music industry and complementary technology companies to develop content for the iPod and iPhone, kickstart the App Store, and dominate the mobile industry in the late 2000s/early 2010s.
By being aware of and recording the factors contributing to the development of a company’s successes, that company can learn to prioritize what is useful, and shed what is not.
Fostering and Enabling Innovation in Your Business
Identify and take control of the factors that contribute to innovation in your industry or company. Leverage what you can to find and promote strong actors. Empower them to focus on the activities that lead to profitable artifacts.
Find ways to cut down on demotivation and disengagement within your own team or company, identify and reward talent and initiative, and be a business that positions itself to attract the best talent in your industry going forward.
At the end of the day, the key goal is to improve a company’s value proposition by identifying all the key factors that go towards creating the products or services that customers want or need. The degree to which contributing factors can be changed or affected differs from situation to situation, based on existing factors and the proposed scale of the innovation ecosystem. But the key factors usually remain the same across all cases.